The days of sitting down to a hearty square meal are dead, killed by snacking and the rise of ‘small-plates’ dining.
Blame Millennials if you will, but don’t mourn; what if the so called ‘snackification of mealtimes’ simply represents an overdue re-adjustment of the UK’s curiously rigid attitude towards food, in favour of one more in line with the flexible cuisines of other cultures?
The UK would not be the first nation to question its way of eating. Until fast food arrived on Japan’s shores in the 1970s, traditional Japanese diets had never featured heavy main courses – just a variety of small platefuls to share, a bento box or a tray full of different dishes.
Yet by 1985, troubled by a nation succumbing to the influence of larger meat heavy, high fat, ‘Western’ diets for the first time, the Japanese Government launched official dietary guidelines that encouraged citizens to “Consume Thirty Different Food Items Each Day” and return to a lighter, more varied, diet of seafood, seaweed and plentiful fruit and vegetables.
It’s no accident that their style of cuisine, open to grazing, choice and pleasure, is found repeated across the world. Whether in Spanish Tapas, Greek Mezze, Italian Cichetti, Indian Thali, Chinese Dim Sum or Korean Banchan, other nations have long been awake to the value of diets that accommodate a full satisfying mix of textures and tastes rather than monotonous midweek mealtimes.
As early as 2013, critics of the UK’s own shift towards small-plate dining have been calling for “the madness to end”, but brands have been faster to embrace the changing nature of mealtimes. Square Pie’s ‘Proper Little Pies’ format, for instance, has adapted a British favourite for modern tastes, convivial sharing occasions and opens the door to ways of eating less without feeling deprived.
Grazing needn’t mean eating alone or on the go - our new found ‘a bit of this, a plate of that, a taste of something else’ attitude reflects not a sad loss of food norms, but rather an acknowledgment - at last - of a more positive model of eating focused on flexible sharing and variety.